Q: Does someone with high blood triglycerides need to eat less fat?
A: Triglycerides are fat, but excess triglycerides in the blood usually come from over-production within the body, not from food itself. Experts now say that high blood triglycerides are a sign of heart disease risk and also of an environment within the body likely to promote risk of diabetes and even some cancers. For people who are overweight, weight loss is usually the key to reducing triglyceride production. Losing even 10 pounds is often enough to make a difference, but it has to be kept off. If you are overweight, eating less fat will help if that strategy reduces your overall calories and leads to weight loss. But sometimes, too much carbohydrate (especially as sweets, soft drinks, large portions of juice and refined grains) is what’s behind excess weight and over-production of triglycerides. Too little physical activity is often another part of the problem. Moderate walking 30 to 60 minutes a day can substantially lower blood triglycerides for many people through its effects on body hormones. Too much alcohol can raise triglycerides, so while moderate use may be safe for some people, others may need to avoid alcohol. Genetic disorders, as well as certain diseases and drugs, can also cause high blood triglycerides. People with extreme elevations in blood triglycerides, which is relatively uncommon, may need a very low-fat diet. But for most people with high triglycerides, weight loss, daily moderate exercise and a balanced plant-focused eating pattern are the keys. A registered dietitian can help you sort out the problems and solutions. Ask your physician for a referral, or find one in your area using the website of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN – American Institute for Cancer Research